While the top Emmys went to the two series predicted by the Gold Derby odds — the AMC period drama “Mad Men” and the ABC laffer “Modern Family” — many of the acting awards were won by longshot contenders.
“Mad Men” fought back a strong challenge from “Boardwalk Empire” to win its fourth consecutive Best Drama Series award at the Emmys Sunday. The AMC series, set in the swinging 60s world of advertising, is now tied for most wins with “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “The West Wing.” Unlike those shows, “Mad Men” has yet to see any of its cast take home an Emmy. Indeed, its only other Emmy win this year was for Hairstyling.
Kyle Chandler won Best Drama Actor for the fifth and final season of “Friday Night Lights” edging out frontrunner Jon Hamm who has now lost four in a row for “Mad Men.” And Julianna Margulies prevailed over Elisabeth Moss. “The Good Wife” star finally has a bookend for the Emmy she won back in 1995 for her first season of “ER” with her victory as Best Drama Actress. Two years after winning her “ER” Emmy in the supporting category, she began contending as a lead but lost all four of those bids as well as last year’s race for the first season of “The Good Wife.”
As predicted, veteran character actress Margo Martindale won her first Emmy bid for her supporting performance on the crime drama “Justified.” However, Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones“) was the unexpected winner of Best Supporting Drama Actor. The new HBO fantasy series was virtually shut out of last week’s Creative Arts Awards, winning just one of its nine bids (Main Title Design).
“Boardwalk Empire,” which claimed a record seven Creative Arts awards, won just one of its four Primetime bids as Oscar champ Martin Scorsese earned his first Emmy for directing the pilot of this HBO show set in 1920s Atlantic City. Those eight Emmys are one shy of the record set by “The West Wing” for its first season in 2000.
“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner was stymied in his bid for a fourth consecutive writing award when “Friday Night Lights” showrunner Jason Katims won for scripting the series finale.
“Modern Family” won Best Comedy Series for the second year running. All four of the men in the “Modern Family” cast contended for the supporting award which went to frontrunner Ty Burrell. And Julie Bowen bested her castmate Sofia Vergara as well as the two frontrunners — last year’s champ and this year’s Emmy host Jane Lynch (“Glee“) and Betty White (“Hot in Cleveland“) who won this category twice for her devilish portrayal of Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1975, 1976). The ABC laffer also won directing (Michael Spiller, “Hallowe’en”) and writing (Steven Levitan, Jeffrey Richman, “Caught in the Act”).
Two of the biggest surprises of the evening came in the lead comedy acting categories. Jim Parsons repeated as Best Comedy Actor for “The Big Bang Theory. His win meant a sixth consecutive loss for Steve Carell who left “The Office” this season. And Melissa McCarthy‘s win for Best Comedy Actress for the freshman series “Mike & Molly” meant an end to Laura Linney‘s (“The Big C”) perfect track record at the Emmys where she was 3 for 3. This is the first time in a decade that both lead comedy winners appear on multi-camera shows; back in 2002, the winners were Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and Jennifer Aniston (“Friends”).
“Downton Abbey” was the big winner of the evening. It won the newly combined Movie/Mini race and three more Emmys to add to the pair it won at last week’s Creative Arts ceremony (Cinematography, Costumes). Scenestealer Maggie Smith took the supporting actress award while Oscar champ Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”) claimed the writing prize and Brian Percival won the directing Emmy.
The HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce” which led with 21 nominations, won just two Sunday — for lead actress Kate Winslet and supporting actor Guy Pearce — and three at the Creative Arts (Art Direction, Casting, Score).
The biggest shock of the evening was when Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries went to Barry Pepper for “The Kennedys.” Pepper was the longest of longshots for his portrayal of Robert F. Kennedy and did not make the trip to the Nokia Theater.
The streak continues for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” which won Best Variety Series for the ninth year running. The “Daily Show” scribes won for the first time since 2009 picking up their seventh Emmy in 11 years. And Don Roy King repeated for helming “Saturday Night Live.”